Sea People: The puzzle of Polynesia
HarperCollins, $34.99 pb, 384 pp, 9780008339029
When asked to review Sea People: The puzzle of Polynesia, I thought it might be hard work – improving, but not necessarily fun. I could not have been more wrong. The book is a triumph. Exploring the remarkable history of Polynesian migration to the ‘vast triangle stretching from Hawaii to New Zealand to Easter Island’, it is magnificently researched, assured, and elegant in both structure and style. Marrying careful, probing scholarship with masterful storytelling, Sea People deserves a wide audience, one well beyond those who are from, or conduct research, in the region.
Christina Thompson, born and raised in the United States, is best known in Australia as a former editor of Meanjin (1994–98). After fifteen years in Australia, Thompson holds dual citizenship here and in the United States, where she lives outside Boston with her family. Now editing Harvard Review, Thompson is an award-winning writer, including a National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowship and a National Endowment for the Humanities Public Scholar Award.
In her youth, Thompson was fascinated by Australia, the region, and southern colonial encounters. Crossing the seas in her twenties to complete a PhD in English at the University of Melbourne turned out to be a boundary-breaking experience in more ways than one. To write her doctorate, Thompson drew on anthropology and history as much as literature, thus bringing together insights from the diverse disciplines she continues to interweave in her writing.